The Turks & Caicos islands are a British Overseas Territory. The first British settlers are thought to have been those who came from Bermuda in the second half of the 17th century, bringing their Black African slaves to work the natural salt water lagoons, a process known as salt raking, and develop artificial salinas. Defeated British Loyalists arrived from America in the 1780s following the American War of Independence, again bringing with them where they could an enslaved workforce. They introduced the cotton plantations, as well as participating in the salt industry. The surnames of some of those Loyalists, such as James Misick, John McIntosh and Wade Stubbs, are now frequent among descendants of their slaves.
The records here are indexed from the British Library’s Endangered Archives Project, which imaged the archipelago’s surviving registers held at the Turks & Caicos National Museum. Many of these, as the name of the British Library project indicates, are in poor condition, having been damaged by damp and flooding. In some cases, the records are so damaged that only part of them could be indexed. Notwithstanding that, this is a valuable resource and, as far as we know, the first time these records have ever been indexed and made available to the genealogy public. Each transcription links through to the source image at the Endangered Archives Project website. Note that sometimes records extend over two or more pages, so you may need to page forward to the next image to see the rest of the original record.
Both our own transcriptions and the British Library’s digital image are made available without charge. The registers indexed here include:
Anglican (St Thomas’s) composite register, 1799-1818
Anglican (St Thomas’s) composite register, 1799-1818 [different to the above]
Anglican (St Thomas’s) marriage register, 1827-1833
Anglican (St Thomas’s) marriage register, 1835-1922
Anglican (St Thomas’s) marriage register, 1870-1876
Wesleyan Methodist marriage register, 1839-1940
Unlike with our births and baptisms, there are no civil registers in this collection – only Anglican and Methodist.
As well as recording the marriages of the white settlers, these registers have significant Black History interest. The earliest marriages we can be sure relate to Black individuals seem to date from the late 1820s. In October 1828, for instance, we see David Cooper, a “negro slave belonging to John Lightbourn Esq”, marrying Christian Deane, a “free woman of colour”. They married by banns in the parish church, by permission of the enslaving John Lightbourn. Similarly, in August 1830 a man named Peel, “Slave, the property of Samuel Lighbourn, Esq”, and Polly, “the property of [the] Estate of William Darrell (deceased)” were married “by permission”.
It is quite likely that a large proportion of the 19th century Methodist marriages will relate to Black couples. Although this is not stated explicitly in individual marriage entries, the occupations such as “labourer”, the uses of an X in signatures to denote illiteracy and sometimes the distinctive names point in that direction. It is also likely that Methodism appealed to the Black population in more welcoming opposition to the Established Church.